Off to Himalayas to throw himself off

Wanaka adventurer Mal Haskins and his partner Sophie Ward, who depart for the Himalayas today to...
Wanaka adventurer Mal Haskins and his partner Sophie Ward, who depart for the Himalayas today to prepare for Mr Haskin's world-first attempt at speed flying from an 8000m peak. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
Mr Haskins practices launching a speed wing on Dingboche Ri (5700m) on a recent training trip to...
Mr Haskins practices launching a speed wing on Dingboche Ri (5700m) on a recent training trip to Nepal. Photo supplied.

Several years of preparation and planning is nearing an end for Wanaka adventurer Mal Haskins, who leaves today for Nepal for a world-first speedflying attempt down an 8000m Himalayan mountain peak, Manaslu.

Mr Haskins (39) is being supported by his partner Sophie Ward (40), who will co-ordinate Mr Haskins' expedition from Manaslu base camp.

Manaslu (8136m) is about eight days' journey northwest of Kathmandu - one day driving and seven days' trekking.

Mr Haskins won a $10,000 Hillary Expedition Grant last year for his Speedfly 8000 attempt and will fly solo after expedition partner Zac Morris, of Wanaka, withdrew because of work commitments in the film industry.

"I was a little bit disappointed but one way of looking at it is there is 50% less chance of something going wrong."

Mr Haskins will climb Manaslu with Sherpa support.

He plans to launch his ultra lightweight canopy (1.6kg) as close to the summit as possible and land at about 5000m.

Mr Haskins accepts his late-October attempt could be thwarted by weather and conditions.

If he harboured any doubts, he would not launch, he said.

"Scared is not the right word. I guess it is nervous anticipation.

"I can put myself at 8000m with a canopy laid out behind me and my heart goes ... [he paused to pound his chest] ... but I will have spent my acclimatisation period working out a safe landing area and that's more than half my issues sorted.

"Then there's just hypoxia to worry about - and hypothermia, frostbite, altitude sickness, pulmonary oedema, cerebral oedema," Mr Haskins said.

The couple have raised about $17,000 for the Speedfly 8000 expedition.

Supporters include the Sport and Recreation New Zealand, Canterbury Mountaineering Club, Southern Lakes Heliski and Wanaka and Queenstown businesses and friends.

 


Speedfly 8000 project

• World-first attempt
to launch a speed wing from an 8000m peak in the Himalayas.
Skills required: Off-piste ski touring, climbing, paragliding, skydiving.
What is a speed wing? The specialised wing has the control characteristics of a paraglider and the descent rate and responses of a high-performance skydive wing. It allows for fast descents down the side of mountains, with the pilot wearing skis to interact with the terrain and reach areas not normally accessible to skiers. Can be done without skis, but the pilot would not want to touch the ground.
Speeds: Up to 100kmh.


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